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Offley & Stopsley CC 185 -10 Vs Hatfield 186-3 ; 26th July

OSCC Lost by 7 Wkts

Offley endured a typically joyless trip to Hatfield as they slumped to a crushing seven-wicket defeat. Offley-molester Steve Gayle may have been absent but the hosts produced another tyro, opener Reid, who smashed an unbeaten 113 as Hatfield cantered to a seven-wicket win. In contrast to that, Offley produced a batting display that fluctuated between iffy and abysmal, culminating in a disastrous late order collapse and the resurrection of the Terminator.

Steve Bexfield won the toss and had no hesitation batting first on a superb wicket with a fast outfield. Bexfield and Dhrupal Patel shared another impressive stand as they put on 74 for the opening wicket. The 50 came up in the ninth over but after that the run rate slowed down as the spinners were introduced into the attack. Bexfield seemed set for another big score but departed for 39 when he danced down the wicket, danced back, danced around on the spot and ultimately got bowled. Patel went moments later, bowled attempting a typically wristy flick and Offley were suddenly rocking slightly on 78-2.

Darren Lunney and Nathan Brodie got the innings back on track as they took the total to 106. However, Lunney was bowled attempting an indeterminate shot for 15 and Brodie was forced into another rebuilding job with Jon Cerasale. Cerasale looked in fine form and hit some booming shots, including a monstrous straight sixth, his eight maximum of the season. However, he departed after slicing a drive into the wind and was well caught for 27, perishing at the hands of the crafty veteran Foster. Andrew Vanhoof smashed a glorious shot over cover but was bowled next ball as Offley slipped to 151-5 with 10 overs remaining.

Brodie and Richie Barker took the score to 169 before Brodie was trapped lbw as he rather unwisely attempted a reverse sweep. Chris Latino failed to trouble the scorers before his frenetic innings ended in a run out as he smashed the ball back to the bowler and set off for a run that wasn’t there – it certainly wasn’t there if you were watching events unfold from the non-striker’s end – before being run out for his third duck of the year.

Chris Austin and Barer took the score to 184-7 with 12 balls remaining before Austin elected to open up and strike out for glory. Unfortunately his bid to clear the ropes backfired when he missed the ball and was bowled. Matthew Freeman came and went in the blink of an eye, victim of a slightly slapdash piece of running and calling from Barker that culminated in Freeman stranded in the middle of the pitch as the stumps were uprooted. Offley’s hopes of negotiating the final eight balls of the innings now hinged on Marc Ward but the young stroke maker went first ball, rather unwisely mowing across the line in a bid to hit a 6. The final five wickets went down for 16 runs as Offley’s batsmen self-destructed in bizarre and dramatic fashion to present Hatfield with a simple victory target.

Any hopes of an Offley victory hinged on early wickets but despite a tidy spell from Lunney and a mildly testing one from Freeman that soon gave way to a steady stream of tasty treats for the batsmen, the home openers had little difficulty in posting 50 for the first wicket. Offley finally made the breakthrough when Barker threw up a cunningly disguised legside full toss that Greval graciously smashed straight to Ward at square leg where the fielder took an excellent catch. It was 59-2 shortly afterwards when Barker beat Naik in the flight and Austin smartly executed a top class stumping. Offley were mystifyingly denied a third wicket when Shah picked the ball up as it rolled towards the stumps.

That proved crucial as Shah helped to add 67 for the third wicket with Reid before Cerasale finally bowled him. However, Reid was continuing to score freely and Offley’s last slender hope was dashed when Cerasale found the edge of Whitehead’s bat with his final delivery but Austin failed to hold on to the regulation edge.

All that remained to be decided was the margin of victory. At this stage Freeman returned to the attack. It should be pointed out that in the wake of his run out and a minor run-in with his chum Lunney, Freeman was not exactly having a beezer day. Unfortunately it only got worse as Reid smashed his first four balls to the boundary. Freeman’s second comeback over featured three boundaries as Reid brought up his century. Ultimately Freeman finished with slightly dispiriting figures of 6-1-49-0, the final 18 balls of which yielded 9 boundaries and 42 runs in total.

All in all not the best of days for Offley who saw their slender North Herts title hopes reduced to the mathematical. There were very few positives to be taken from a performance where batsmen threw their wickets away and camaraderie came in for a bit of a pounding. Hopefully August will bring better days.